This month we finish our time in Massachusetts, and continue west to Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, and Nebraska. First in Massachusetts we stop in the mid-state industrial city of Worcester. Creating the eastern border between Worcester and Shrewsbury is Lake Quinsigamond. As with Whalom Park in Lunenberg, The White City in Worcester used the natural appeal of a large body of water to draw a crowd, and added amusements and other activities to get them to spend their money. Though all the postcards say the park is in Worcester, it actually was physically in the suburb of Shrewsbury. I’m certain this was to trade on the better known Worcester name. This first card is special as it was released prior to the parks opening in 1905. A note written on the front lets the recipient of the card know it will open in May. These pre-opening cards are nice examples of advertising for an upcoming attraction. At this point in history, you could only write an address on the back of the card, so it’s not unusual to see writing on the front of cards from this era.
This next view of The White City is a nice close up of riders enjoying their trip on the scenic railway. This type of card became popular during this era of the undivided back postcard. The space at the bottom took away from the image, but was popular anyway, as it gave senders a place to write a note without marring the view on the front of the card. The White City was another trolley park, and it suffered through the Great Depression, finally succumbing to economic realities in 1960. For those who know that area, The White City Shopping Center near the now defunct Spag’s was where this lost amusement park was located.
This next card is a wonderful view of riders enjoying a low energy ride on a figure eight roller coaster, circa 1910. This type of coaster is nearly extinct, only Leaps The Dips in Altoona, PA remains as an example. In this close view, you can see how there are wooden sides near the tracks. The ride is a series of figure eights, with small hills. Maximum speed on a ride like this was probably only about 10 MPH. It wasn’t until the underwheel, that locks the car to the track, was invented that coasters sped up to today’s extremes. When the car returns to the station, a brakeman in the station will pull a large lever, which squeezes the boards on the side against the car, slowing it to a stop. These are known as side friction roller coasters. Since these rides were so popular and so common, this exact card comes with different names of parks on it. This card is from Wenona Beach, Bay City, Michigan, but I have seen this same view with at least three other different park names displayed on it.
This next view is from Electric City in Detroit, Michigan. Located adjacent to the bridge to Belle Isle, this trolley park was in operation from 1906 to 1928. This view shows an overview of the parks many rides, including the Trip Thru The Clouds roller coaster, a Traver circle swing, what looks like some sort of funhouse or other inside attraction, and behind that the top of the Ferris wheel. Also a drink stand can be seen.
This last view in Michigan is from the Ionia, Michigan Fair. This fair is one of the nation’s largest, and longest lasting. It started in 1856, and is going strong today in 2014. This view is from the 1960’s, and shows the plethora of rides offered. Starting in the front right, there is a Zipper, a ride I have never been able to go on, then a ride I’ve seen called the crazy buckets, basically a round car that you can rotate while going around in a circle. Urp! A Round-Up, Double Ferris Wheel, and other spin and pukes can also be seen. A line of tents probably held games of chance and human oddities displays.
Not being an emetic fan, let’s move on from the Ionia Fair, and onto Minnesota. With many smaller states, I only have a few or even just one card. I have just a few Minnesota cards, and this one is the best, a great action view of the Cyclone roller coaster coming down a hill.
We move south to Missouri, and to Schifferdecker Electric Park. This short lived park was only in operation from 1909 through 1912. Many parks incorporated Electric into their name during this period to trade in on the new attraction of electricity. For many people an amusement park was the only place they had seen an incandescent light bulb! I have seen many of these cards for sale, so the park’s demise didn’t come around by lack of advertising materials. These rides must have been interesting. I would imagine they were a less than gentle ride through several switch backs, and curves.
This next view shows the extents that park operators went through to theme the entrances to their rides to entice those not yet on the ride, to pry a nickel or dime out of their pocket, and give this new mechanical marvel a go. This entrance is for the Scenic Railway roller coaster in Electric Park, Kansas City, Missouri, a short lived park open only from 1907 through 1925. I love the intricate lattice work, and beautiful architecture on these old rides, a far cry from the utilitarian nature of most queue lines today.
Moving to Montana is a nice real photo view showing the roller coaster at Columbia Gardens in Butte, Montana. It is my only card from Montana, and I have not found a ton of information about the park’s past, short of it being a botanical attraction at points in its history.
Our last amusement card this month is a nice view of riders on a small roller coaster that overlooks the swimming area. They are enjoying their day at Peony Park in Omaha, Nebraska. Peony Park was a water attraction for most of its history, adding rides in the 1970’s. The park closed for good in 1994. This is also my only postcard from Nebraska.
From the sideshow collection this month comes a self made freak. One who was born without deformity or other maladies. In today’s world of ubiquitous tattoos, it’s hard to believe an age when a heavily tattooed person was so unusual that you’d pay to see one. Certainly today there are many more people with facial tattoos, and many more with total body tattoos, but in the Great Omi’s day this was unheard of. Born in 1892, the Great Omi had several tattoos, but enlisted a tattoo artist to give him the distinctive zebra like black stripes on his face and upper body sometime between 1927 and 1934. He exhibited himself most of his life, until his death in 1969.
Our last sideshow card is of Susi, the Alligator Skin girl. Susi was an unfortunate victim of an extreme case of psoriasis, which resulted in her skin having a scaly, lizard like appearance. There were several Alligator people throughout history. I have only seen this one view of Susi, and there is scant information on her available.